Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ethan in the MTC ... and at the Missionary Broadcast

June 12, 2013

We received Elder Christiansen's first letter today! He sounds like he's working hard and happy to be in the MTC! 

June 12, 2013

Hola Familia!
Well my first week en la CCM (in the MTC) has been amazing! I love it here, this place rocks! My companion's name is Elder Renshaw and he was the guy I met at Mr. Mac back at BYU how crazy is that?! We rock together though. It is so much fun, the Spirit is so strong here, it’s everywhere you go it is so awesome. It’s truly a miracle to see how involved Heavenly Father is in His work. It is extremely hard though, by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. You have to ask the Lord to help you whenever you can because it would be impossible to do this work all on your own.

I can already pray fluently and bear testimony in Spanish too! I’ve learned so much while I’ve been here, but man I still have a lot to learn. Pero esta bien (but "it's all good" -- this is my favorite Spanish phrase thus far). I hope you, Dad and Andrew are doing well I’m glad Andrew had fun in HH. I’ve seen a ton of people I know here, too, and they are always so nice. 

One important thing I have learned this week is that you truly have to love and have charity for those you teach otherwise you will have no success. I would like to invite all y'all to watch David A. Bednar's MTC Devotional from 2011 called the Character of Christ. It is the best talk I’ve ever heard and it has changed my heart. I love you guys all so much and I hope your lives are treating you well! If not, then go help someone else cause then you will be blessed!

Con Amor (with love),
Elder Christiansen 

Remember this guy? Ethan met Kason
Renshaw, also going to McAllen, TX,
while shopping for missionary supplies.
Guess who got paired up to be roommates and
companions during their six weeks in the MTC?!
Elder Christiansen and Elder Renshaw --
how cool is that? What an amazing
blessing for the two of them, and a tender mercy
for both of their moms! And I love how they are
standing in exactly the same position -- kind of
the "before" and "after" shot. Love it!

Elder Christiansen and his District at the MTC, above
and below, at the Provo Utah Temple. There's a great
organizational structure for missionaries: each is paired
in a companionship, there are several companionships that
make up a district, then a few districts make up a zone,
and then are several zones within a mission, -- like the
Texas, McAllen mission. Missionaries learn about this
organization and begin operating within this structure
from Day 1 at the MTC.

Elder Renshaw, leaning against Elder Christiansen's desk
in a classroom at the MTC. They even wear their suits to
study, getting in the routine of being a full-time missionary.

Elder Christiansen, Elder Renshaw, and Elder Jensen at the
Missionary Broadcast in the Marriott Center June 23.
Anyone who knows Ethan from school will
recognize the familiar pen behind his ear :) 

The LDS Church broadcast its annual training for new mission
 presidents, and invited all the missionaries at the Provo MTC
to attend. It was held in the Marriott Center, BYU's basketball
arena, and Elder Christiansen along with hundreds of other
missionaries were part of a choir that provided music for
the meeting. This is a photo Ethan took from his seat before
the broadcast started; he was behind the stage and you can
see the various video monitors on either side of the podium.

Screen shot of Elder Christiansen in the crowd at the broadcast.
Knowing he was there and would be singing in the choir, we were
glued to the screen watching it online. During one of the talks,
as the camera scanned the crowd, there he was!!!! We were so
excited and I was screaming and crying at once. He had been
in the MTC for 2 1/2 weeks -- it was so GOOD to see him!

You can see Ethan at the 4:15 mark in the broadcast video by clicking here.

July 3, 2013

Hola Familia!

I’ve been in the MTC for 4 weeks now and I am loving it! My companion, Elder Renshaw, and I were part of the largest group of missionaries to ever come into the MTC at once! The final count was about 940 of us on June 5th, the day we went in. We have also started having the Tuesday night devotionals in the Marriott Center at BYU because the auditorium at the MTC can’t hold everyone.

It has definitely been hard at the MTC but it has been amazing as well, the Spirit is very strong here and the Lord truly does protect and help out those who serve him whether we are full-time missionaries or not. We taught an “investigator” on the second full day we were here and it was kind of hard but as long as you prepare well and really try to show charity to those you teach, the Spirit just goes “beast mode,” it’s way awesome!

Elder Renshaw and I were called as the new zone leaders, after being here a week-and-a-half, kind of weird but awesome though, it’s been so fun and a great opportunity to serve. The miracles I have seen are unreal they happen every single day it is amazing to see how much Heavenly Father cares about His work!

My Spanish is coming along well and I can talk to people pretty fluently...but like only about the gospel because that’s all we learn all day, so I am starting to learn how to ask for a haircut and other simple stuff like that so I can get around. Pero esta bien (it’s all good) is my favorite Spanish phrase so far!

We’ve been to the Provo Temple a couple of times for sessions, and today we got to clean the temple for about three hours, it was a lot of fun. I used a ladder and climbed up and got to clean the Angel Moroni! You could see the whole valley but it was pretty scary cause it was so high…ha-ha, nah, just kidding! I didn’t do that. We cleaned the lockers in the men’s locker room and wiped down the baseboards…ha-ha.

One final thing I want to share: I know that if we follow and obey the commandments the Lord has given us, he will bless us and turn us into people that we would have never become on our own, and that is because he truly does love and care about each and every one of us! If you have time, take 5 minutes one day and read over Alma 26:12 “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.” I testify that this scripture is so true because I have seen it in my life and the lives of the elders I live with, and it is an amazing thing to see. I testify that with the Lord we truly can do all things. It is amazing how much He cares about his work and ALL of His children here on earth, not just the members of the church.

I love and miss you all but I am happy and healthy and living the life! I love serving Heavenly Father. I am already so grateful I choose to do this it is truly an amazing experience and I've just barely started!

Con Amor (with love),
Elder Christiansen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Going to the Missionary Training Center and The Power Walk!

June 4 & 5, 2013

The time had arrived for Ethan to leave for the Missionary Training Center. Ethan and Andrew said their goodbyes on June 2, then Andrew headed out for a week at the beach with his good buddies, one of whom has a beach house. Thankful for good friends, and such a great way for Andrew to transition into having Ethan gone on his mission.

So, it was now go time! The LDS Church operates 15 MTCs around the world, and Ethan was going to the one in Provo, Utah -- about a block from BYU where he had spent freshman year. Kind of a homecoming for him, but to an entirely new home. :) Doug took us to the airport, and I flew out with Ethan.

Sidenote: Our original leave date from Nashville was June 3, but due to mechanical problems with the plane and a canceled flight, we had to change to June 4, which meant Doug and I had one more night with Ethan at home -- special time. 

Saying goodbye to "Rove 2" --
proudly wearing a Texas sticker!

Ethan and Doug at the Nashville airport -- proud papa.

Last minute words of wisdom and smiles.
One more hug before boarding the plane, so sweet.
The photo is blurry because I'm crying while
taking it (and because I don't know how to
focus the camera on my iPhone!) :)

Waiting at the gate -- goofball Ethan!

Once we got to Salt Lake that evening, Ethan had the chance to see a few more family members:

Ethan with Uncle Scott Christiansen

Ethan with Uncle Grant Hedin, Cousin Ben Hedin
and his wife, Karli. Ben came to Nashville for
Ethan's Missionary Farewell Celebration
and Talk in Church.

The next day, Doug's parents and sister drove us to the MTC. It was a fun time with beautiful sunny weather -- the perfect day for Elder Christiansen to launch his missionary experience. Here we are saying our goodbyes in the driveway of Papa Clair 's and Grandma Joyce's house, because when you get to the MTC, you basically pull up at the curb and your missionary and his/her luggage hop out! You barely stop the car...jk...but it's a pretty quick process. So, there was more time in the driveway for hugs.

Ethan's grandparents: Clair and Joyce Christiansen.
Joyce was recovering from a recent back surgery
and was such a trooper to ride in the car with us.

Hugging Grandma Joyce, with her beautiful flowers in the background.

Hugging Papa Clair.

Hugging Aunt Susan Williams (Doug's sister)
Hugging Mom

So...after all of that hugging, we were ready to hit the road. Ethan was supposed to be at the MTC at a certain time for drop off. But before we could leave, Ethan had one more thing to do...a promise he made to Doug and me...something he would do before going into the MTC. The Power Walk! I'm sure this is only funny to our family, but here's the backstory: When we dropped Ethan off for college the year before, after moving him into his dorm and getting him all settled, it was time for us to leave. We were outside the Wilkinson Center at BYU saying our goodbyes, hugging, and trying not to be too sad and totally lose it, when Ethan did the power walk for us as a way to send us all off laughing. It was hysterical and just the thing we all needed! This silly power walk came from some random commercial (I can't even remember which one), and Ethan would do it around the house sometimes, just messing around, and it always made us laugh! So, in the driveway before getting in the car, Ethan did the power walk. On the video below, you can hear Grandpa Clair joking "This will probably be the hardest thing he does all day." It was pretty funny and got everyone laughing before the 30-minute drive to the MTC.)

In the car, can't wait to get to the MTC!

We were assigned stop #12 at the curb. Elder Morgan from
Australia was Ethan's greeter and host for the day.
He met us at the car, helped unload Ethan's luggage,
I got out for one more quick hug, we snapped this photo,
and they were off! It was a very sweet few minutes,
no tears, just enthusiasm and excitement to get started.
Way to go Ethan for setting the tone!